The Girl in the Clockwork Collar Page 29

“You’re right,” he agreed, nodding. “Thank you for looking after her.”

Kirby pulled a ring of keys from his belt. “Why don’t I let her out, and the five of us have some coffee and eats while we compare information? I’m hoping you’ve figured out what Dalton’s up to.”

“A little,” Griffin allowed. He watched as Kirby unlocked the cell door so Finley could come out. He was barely aware of his feet moving until he stood right in front of her.

No turning back now, he thought, and he hugged her. In front of three witnesses—two of whom were bound to tease him mercilessly for this—he pulled her close and rested his cheek against her hair. He could have stayed like that forever, but he let her go after a second or two. Her hands slid over his shoulders and down his arms. She didn’t seem to want to let go of him, either.

They returned to the main area of the apartments and sat down at the table. Kirby took away the cold remains of Finley’s meal with the promise to make more. “Sorry, folks, but breakfast’s all I know how to cook.”

“I never turn down bacon,” Sam allowed.

Emily rolled her eyes at him. “You never turn down anything edible.”

Griffin glanced at Finley with a grin. She smiled back. Sam and Emily’s banter was always good for defusing an awkward moment. He didn’t like it when things were awkward between Finley and himself, but they couldn’t seem to help themselves.

As Kirby cooked, he revealed his surprising family connection to the Renns. No wonder he wanted to clear Jasper’s name. His sister—and the rest of the family—must be beside themselves with worry. If the marshal had revealed this earlier, it would have kept them from doubting him.

In turn, Griffin related what they had discovered from Tesla in regards to the mysterious machine.

“Isn’t that a bit of a coincidence?” Finley asked, speaking for the first time since leaving the cell. She glanced at Griffin, then Emily. “That it just happened to be built by a man you know?”

Emily’s pink lips curved slightly. “I prefer to think of it as my sweet Irish luck, my friend. It might seem odd, but Tesla and Edison are the two minds behind the most amazing inventions in this country. Dalton must have heard of the machine and what it was supposed to do—why else steal it? At least now we know what it does.”

“Mmm,” Griffin agreed as he took a drink of Kirby’s excellent coffee. “But still no closer to knowing what he intends to do with it.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Kirby asked. “There’s not a vault or train—anything—that he can’t simply walk right into whenever he pleases.”

“Dalton thinks of himself as special,” Griffin replied. “He doesn’t strike me as the type to simply rob a place because he can. There’s no challenge in that. He wants attention, but he also wants respect. No, he’ll go after high-profile victims— the kinds of robberies that anyone else would be foolish to attempt.”

Finley nodded. “Griff ’s right. Dalton’s vain. He’ll want to cause a fuss, right off the mark.”

“And what better place to do that than in New York City?” Whip flipped the eggs frying on the stove and turned to Griffin. “You’ve been something of a celebrity since your arrival. Do you know of any highfalutin shindigs coming up?”

“Dalton stole plans to the Museum of Science and Invention, but from what I’ve heard, there’s nothing that would be of value to a man like him on display there.”

Whip’s eyes lit up. “Isn’t that where they’re displaying that rare diamond that’s come to town? It’s an odd color or something. That Astor-Prynn gent’s in charge.”

Griffin froze. He had received an invitation to the event, but he hadn’t opened it, because attending would mean spending more time with Lydia. If he had opened it, he would have seen the location. Even though he’d been told about the viewing, he’d never been told where it was.

It was enough to make him want to smack himself in the forehead for being so ruddy stupid.

“Dalton must be planning to steal the diamond,” Finley said. “It’s flashy, plus he’ll have a very upscale audience. It’s the kind of thing that would make him famous.”

“It would at that,” Whip agreed. “And if he’s got a machine that allows him to walk through walls, he can get in right easy.”

“Not just that,” Emily added before Griffin could. “He could reach right into any display or locked box he wanted.”

Anticipation stirred in Griffin’s belly, just as it always did when he was close to capturing a criminal. But it wasn’t just for that. Once Dalton was gone, Finley would come back.

He really wanted her back.

Kirby began setting plates of bacon and eggs and fried potatoes in front of them, and they ate while they discussed Dalton and his plans. Finley told them about the barbaric collar the outlaw made Mei wear and how he used Jasper’s feelings for the girl to manipulate him.

Sam shook his shaggy dark head. “There’s always a girl.”

Emily nudged him hard with her elbow, but the big lad hardly seemed to notice. In truth, he used the fact that her arm was busy to steal a forkful of golden-brown potatoes from her plate.

His joke led Griffin to reveal to Finley what Kirby had told them about the murder Jasper had been accused of committing. What surprised him was that she knew all about it— Jasper had told her.

“Mei and I can’t stand each other,” she admitted, “but I don’t blame her for plugging that fellow full of holes. I’d have done the same myself.” A shadow seemed to pass over her face, and Griffin wondered if she was thinking about what she had done to the son of her last employer when the young man attacked her.

“Me, too,” Emily agreed.

Sam’s scowl returned. “You’d have to do it before I ripped his arms off.”

Griffin winced. It was one thing to hear someone make such an overly exaggerated comment and another to know they could actually do it.

A knock on the door put an end to the conversation, and they all snapped to attention.

Quickly, Kirby gathered up their plates and piled them in the sink. “In the back, all of you.”

“You think it’s Dalton?” Griffin asked, holding the heavy door open for the others.

The marshal met his gaze with his flinty stare. “I’m expecting him.”

Griffin only nodded and followed his friends down the hall. It would be better to have the element of surprise against Dalton. He wouldn’t expect Griffin to have come for Finley.

The girls stepped into the cell Finley had been in earlier, while Sam stood just in the entrance of it and Griffin out in the hall. He didn’t want to risk the door closing and shutting them all in. They’d be easy targets then.

His gaze slipped to the wall of the cell behind Finley. What the—? He shook his head.

“What?” Sam demanded, glancing over his shoulder.

“The wall. I thought it moved.” As soon as he spoke, the strange phenomenon happened again, only this time he was certain of it. The wall rippled.

“Bugger,” Griff muttered.

Dalton had arrived.

As if by magic, a figure literally stepped right through that back wall. It was a huge man Griffin recognized as one of Dalton’s men. Right behind him came another, then Jasper, then Dalton.

In the other part of the building, there was a commotion, and before Griffin could yell for Kirby, the door burst open and Whip came running in. Past him, Griffin could see a man lying on the floor. Obviously Dalton had sent a distraction for the marshal while he used Tesla’s device on the building’s outer wall.

Kirby pulled out his gun and aimed it at Dalton, but the criminal had already pulled a pistol of his own and had it leveled not at Kirby, but at Emily. “Put it away, Kirby, or the little redhead gets a haircut.”

Griffin stiffened. He thought he heard Sam growl. This feeling-helpless shite was getting to be a bit much. He could try to summon enough Aether to disarm Dalton, but he’d never tried focusing it down to a single bolt of energy. There was too much of a chance he’d seriously hurt his friends.

“Jasper, take Miss Finley outside, will you?” Dalton asked. Griffin’s gaze jumped to the fellow standing at Dalton’s side. Jasper’s face was pale, and when his friend’s gaze locked with his, Griffin saw anger and helplessness there. He knew the feeling.

“No one’s going anywhere,” Whip informed Dalton in a cold tone and pulled back the hammer on his pistol. “Least of all you, Dalton.”

Dalton responded by doing the same to his. “Don’t think I won’t kill her. Should I prove it by putting one in her leg first?”

Finley stepped forward, and from the look on her face, Griffin knew she would gladly snap Dalton’s arm in half. He shook his head ever so slightly, telling her not to give herself away. Dalton might just as easily shoot her—or use that damn machine—and he would never forgive himself if anything happened to her.

The second Dalton squeezed the trigger, Sam stepped in front of Emily, taking the bullet meant for her in the leg. He didn’t even stumble.

But he ripped the cot from the bolts that held it to the floor and threw it.

Startled—horrified—Dalton fired again and began pushing his people toward the back wall. “Go!” he shouted.

The second bullet hit Sam, as well. This time, in the shoulder. Still, the large lad did not falter. He kept moving toward Dalton, despite Emily shouting at him not to. One of Dalton’s men pushed the cot back at him from where it had fallen, trying to trip him with it. Sam grabbed the bed once more and used it to throw the man against the wall.

Dalton raised his gun again. The muzzle was pointing straight at Griffin. For a split second, Griffin felt his mortality slip, and the Aether pulled at him. If only he had something he could charge and throw. If only he was as physically tough as Sam.

Just as he braced himself, committed himself to at least attempt to bend the Aether into a single bolt of energy, Finley grabbed Dalton’s arm, lowering it. “We’ve got to go,” she told him. “Now.”

Dalton nodded. He backed toward the wall as Jasper shoved Finley through it, as though it was nothing more than fog. Only half of Dalton remained when he raised his weapon one more time and fired. Whip Kirby fell to the floor.

He’d been shot in the chest.

Chapter 14

Emily never traveled without her bag of “goodies,” as she called them—basic tools that allowed her to work on almost any type of problem, mechanical or organic. She also carried Organites, the primordial ooze from which all life was said to have sprung.

It was fortunate for Whip Kirby that the bullet went all the way through, just below his right collarbone. Sam placed the man on the mattress that had fallen off the cot and ripped open his shirt and leather vest, as though they were tissue paper.

After cleaning the wound, Emily was able to stick the nozzle of her special Organite syringe directly into the bloody hole and inject the unconscious lawman. Sam and Griffin helped her with bandaging and then took care of cleanup while Emily sat with Whip.

“So I guess we can say that Tesla’s machine works,” Sam commented as he washed the blood from his hands at the sink.

Griffin joined him and chuckled drily at the irony in his tone. “We can at that.” He glanced at his friend’s bloody pant leg. “Do you need medical attention?”

“I’m fine. Dalton pointed a gun at Em.” All trace of humor was gone from his voice, replaced by a hardness that froze Griffin’s insides. Dalton was lucky Sam hadn’t gotten to him, because Sam would have killed him.

“We’ll get him,” Griffin promised, even though he had no bloody idea just how to make that happen.

Sam offered him the towel. “If not for Finley, he would have shot you, too.”

Griffin kept his gaze on his hands as he dried them. “I know.”

“Hope she doesn’t break Dalton’s neck before I get a chance to.”

A reluctant grin took hold of his mouth. “That would be unfortunate. For Dalton.”

They shared a grin—the sort that couldn’t be helped after such a stressful event. Griffin would never admit it, but he was still a little jittery. He didn’t know if it was adrenaline or the Aether, but it ran through his veins like an army of sprinting spiders.

Did Dalton know they were onto him? Did he suspect that Finley was one of them, rather than someone Griffin tried to press for information? If so, Finley could be in danger. She could take care of herself, but Dalton wouldn’t hesitate to kill her.

Which meant that they would have to act soon. There had to be a way to extricate Finley and Jasper from Dalton’s control. They knew what the machine did, and they had a fair idea of where he was going to strike, so Finley didn’t need to be there anymore.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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